This lemony sour cream bundt cake is delicious year-round, but it’s particularly appropriate during the Jewish holiday of Purim. In addition to eating triangular shaped foods like hamantaschen and kreplach, which represent Haman’s ears or his triangular shaped hat, many Jewish families celebrate Purim with a vegetarian feast in honor of Esther. The meal often includes items like chickpeas, nuts, and poppy seeds. This tradition of eating nuts, legumes and seeds finds roots in the intermarriage between Queen Esther and her husband Ahasuerus, the king of Persia.
Queen Esther was Jewish, King Ahasuerus was not. When Esther came to live in the king’s palace, tradition says she became a vegetarian in order to avoid eating food that was not kosher. For protein, she often ate nutrient-rich seeds, nuts, and legumes instead of meat. Poppy seeds are a natural outgrowth of this seed and legume tradition, so in eating them we are celebrating Queen Esther and her role in the Purim story. Poppy seeds are also seen in the Jewish religion as a symbol of fruitfulness. Accordingly, I think this cake would also make a great addition to a Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah or Shavuot menu… or really, any time of year! Who needs an excuse to bake a lemony poppy seed bundt cake?
There are three different ways to top this beauty, with powdered sugar, a lemon icing or a warm lemon glaze. They are all delicious, though I don’t recommend using more than one topping– you’ll be on sugar overload! One topping should do it, or serve it naked if you don’t need the extra sweetness and you simply want to enjoy a slice with tea or coffee.
By the way, a friendly heads up: if you are about to take a new job that requires a drug test, skip this cake. Poppy seeds can cause a false positive for heroine use. So if you’re filling out job applications, think twice about this one. Try some fruit or chocolate-filled hamantaschen instead!
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- 1 cup poppy seeds
- 1 cup lowfat milk
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs separated (room temperature)
- 3 tbsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup lowfat sour cream
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
Lemon Icing Glaze (optional)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Warm Lemon Glaze (optional)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tbsp water
- Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
You will also need
- 9-10 inch Bundt cake pan, electric mixer, sifter, wire cooling rack & parchment paper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-10 inch Bundt cake pan (12 cup capacity) and set aside.
- If you like a less crunchy cake with a more pronounced poppy seed flavor, grind the seeds in a coffee grinder. If you prefer a crunchier texture, leave the seeds whole. In a small saucepan, combine poppy seeds (whole or ground), milk, and honey. Stir till combined and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Let mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes.
- Place poppy seed mixture into a mixing bowl along with butter and sugar. Beat on high until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Add egg yolks to the mixture and beat again on high. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and sour cream and beat until blended.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Gradually add wet ingredients to dry.
- Use an electric mixer to beat everything together until well combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure all dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
- In a separate clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the poppy seed batter.
- Pour the batter into the Bundt pan. Bundt pan depths vary, so make sure the batter fills the pan ¾ full or less. Do not fill beyond ¾ or your cake might overflow during baking. Use a spatula to gently push the batter to the outside of the pan, pushing slightly up the walls. This will help to get rid of any air pockets that might interfere with the pretty details of the pan.
- Smooth the batter on the top so it is flat and even all the way around the pan.
- Bake cake in preheated oven for 55-65 minutes. When the edges darken and pull fully away from the sides of the pan and the cake browns all the way across the surface, it’s ready. You should be able to insert a toothpick into the thickest part of the cake and have it come out clean.
- The top of the cake might be a bit domed. If it bothers you, you can trim it down with a knife to flatten—and snack on the freshly baked trimmings. Yum!
- Let the cake cool for exactly 10 minutes, then invert it onto a flat plate. Tap the Bundt pan gently to release the cake. If your cake sticks, use a plastic knife to carefully loosen the cake around the center tube and sides. Allow cake to cool completely.
- I have a few topping options for this cake. I prefer the lemon icing, personally, but they are all delish. I don't recommend combining options or you'll be on sugar overload! One topping should suffice, or none at all if you want something less dessert-like to serve with tea or coffee. :)
- Option #1: Dust the cake with powdered sugar. To keep things neat, I like to do this part on a wire cooling rack with a piece of parchment paper underneath to catch extra sugar. You can simply do it on a plate if you prefer. Put 3 tbsp of powdered sugar into a handheld mesh strainer or sifter. Sprinkle sugar onto the top of the cake by tapping the strainer or sifting to release an even shower of sugar around the surface of the cake. Pretty, simple, yummy.
- Option #2: Frost the cake with lemony frosting. Again, best to put the cake on a wire cooling rack with a piece of parchment paper underneath to catch the drippings. Mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice in a small mixing bowl to form a tangy frosting with the texture of thick honey. With the help of a spoon, generously pour the frosting over the top of the cake so that it it drizzles down the sides, but doesn't cover the entire cake completely. Allow icing to dry completely before serving—this usually takes about 30 minutes.
- Option #3: Warm lemon glaze. This one is decadent! In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp water. Warm up the glaze till it’s heated through and bubbling around the edges. Pour a few tablespoons of hot glaze over the warm cake slices just before serving. Oy. Vey.
- Personally, I like the icing option... I think it's the prettiest and the extra touch of lemony sweetness is absolutely delish. Enjoy!